Alfred Place Baptist Church

1:35-38 The virgin birth of Christ (I)

Luke 1:35-38 “The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.’ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her.”

God sent a messenger to this teenage girl, the virgin Mary, to inform her that she was going to give birth to a baby boy, a child who was destined for extraordinary greatness. The world had never seen, nor would it ever see again such a person. The angel announced his glorious appellations, his name – ‘Jesus’, that is, the Divine Saviour; his being – ‘the Son of the Most High God’; his vocation – the Messiah sitting on the throne of his father David; the length of his reign – to endure for ever and ever. Mary’s heart must have missed a beat at the words, but there is no disdain or any mockery in her response. She believes Gabriel’s message; this miraculous child is actually going to be born to her. Yet there is this one crucial matter which she immediately thinks of. How could motherhood be a possibility when she as yet had no husband? Her relationship with Joseph had not passed beyond the betrothal stage so pregnancy was an impossibility.

In other words, Mary heard the word from God, took a deep breath as she gazed at this fearfully glorious archangel Gabriel standing before her. He had come from the presence of God with this message; she considered his words and she could believe that she was going to be the favoured one giving birth to the Messiah, the Son of God. However, there was still this one issue troubling her, how was it possible for her to carry such a child when she had not yet been with Joseph. A conception without union with a man was simply beyond her comprehension; “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” she asked in her perplexity. Gabriel honours the spirit of her question and the concern itself as he replies in the words of our text, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (v.35).

1. THERE EXISTED NO CREDULITY ABOUT VIRGIN BIRTHS AT THAT TIME.

There was some preparation in Israel for a virginal conception of the Messiah. It came from the Scriptures, in words given by God to Isaiah in the seventh chapter and the fourteenth verse of his prophecy, so that the event would not come wholly unexpectedly to the remnant; “the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” This same Isaiah prepared the people also for the glorious identity of this Messiah, the “Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace.” Such a person would scarcely have a normal conception. Isaiah also spoke about the Messiah’s sufferings and later exaltation in the fifty-third chapter of his prophecy.

Then here in Luke’s gospel and also in Matthew’s gospel the virgin birth of Christ is announced to the world in words of exceptional plainness. As J. Gresham Machen said, “It is perfectly clear that the New Testament teaches the virgin birth of Christ; about that there can be no manner of doubt.” For example, this is how Matthew relates the conception in the opening chapter of his gospel; “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’” (Matt. 1:18-21). So there is no doubt at all that the New Testament lays on the conscience of every Christian his obligation to trust in the veracity of this miracle. There is nothing unclear or open to another interpretation about what we are being told by Matthew and Luke. This virgin conception is simply a great and mighty wonder. How was this event received at the time?

i] The people of New Testament times were as aware as anyone living in the 21st century that there had to be the physical union of a man and woman before there could be a pregnancy. Many of our contemporaries lazily think that it has been in our sophisticated modern age that people have come to the realisation that a virgin conception is impossible, whereas in those far off primitive times the common man was more gullible. The gospels of Matthew and Luke show us the naivety of such a chronological snobbery. While the people of 2,000 years ago certainly didn’t know about X chromosomes and Y chromosomes they did know the facts of life. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know how every single child is conceived. They knew very well – in those distant days – that anyone who claimed that her baby was the consequence of virginal conception was covering up some moral and social offence. When Joseph himself, who loved Mary deeply and would have trusted all she told him, heard from her that she was pregnant he also needed a visit of the messenger from God to assure him that this was a divine begetting, that the child was “born not of natural descent, nor of human decision, or a husband’s will, but born of God” (Jn. 1:13). Until the angel reassured Joseph of this work of God he was crestfallen about Mary. She didn’t seem that kind of girl; his affection for her made him determined to put her away privately instead of making a public example of her. He was a righteous man. That was the world of the first century.

C.S. Lewis relates an incident that happened to him one Christmas time. His study window was open at Oxford University, and a sceptical faculty member, an acquaintance, was visiting him at the time. In the college quad there were some carolers singing nativity hymns, and some of the carols were about the virgin birth;

“Late in time behold Him come,

Offspring of a virgin’s womb.”

“Lo, he abhorreth not the virgin’s womb.”

They could hear the words and this friend smiled condescendingly to C.S. Lewis saying, “Aren’t you glad that we know better than that?” And C.S. Lewis said, “Pardon me? What’s your point?” His friend said, “Well . . . aren’t you glad that we know that virgins don’t have babies?” C.S. Lewis paused for a moment and said, “Don’t you think that they knew that too? Isn’t that the point?” Yes, that is the point. It’s not that in the first century people were running around claiming virgin births. That is not why this particular birth is drawn to our attention by Luke. It’s rather because this is an utter singularity. Unusual births can occur in nature. Earlier this year in an aquarium in Nebraska one of a number of female Hammerhead sharks that had had no contact with male sharks for years gave birth to a baby shark. It was, of course, a female shark that was born. That can happen frequently among more primitive insects like ants and bees; it is called parthenogenesis. Also conceptions in old age can occur today and in the Bible, in fact, Gabriel reminds Mary of one that had recently occurred. He puts Mary’s pregnancy in the context of the work of God in someone else whom Mary respected and loved, one of her kinsfolk, much older than herself, Elizabeth, who was actually expecting a baby at that very time. But such events as parthenogenesis in the animal world or having a child in one’s old age are fascinating, but nothing like the virgin birth of a baby boy. That’s precisely the point. There is no possible human explanation for the event.

ii] The birth of the Lord Jesus was as extraordinarily breathtaking for Mary and Joseph as it is for us. God alone was doing something unique in the begetting of Jesus Christ. At the very heart of our religion, and at the very beginning of Luke’s account of the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ there is a miracle, in fact Luke hits Theophilus and his readers, just thirty verses into his gospel, with the greatest miracle of all.

He laid His glory by,

He wrapped him in our clay;

Unmarked by human eye,

The latent Godhead lay;

Infant of days He here became,

And bore the mild Immanuel’s name.” (Charles Wesley 1707-1788).

Our God, laying aside none of his divine attributes, added to himself human nature by means of a virgin conception. If God chose to bring the Son of the Most High into the world in this supernatural way then Christians are not shocked or embarrassed. God making sheep or cows is not shocking; God becoming a sheep or a cow is shocking, but the God who made us in his own image and likeness who one day adds our nature to his divine nature in one new person – the God-man – is a great and mighty miracle. Isn’t it just like the God of grace to do something like that? But it is not a shameful act, for who are you dealing with? The foundation of Christianity is an utterly supernatural event; it is an utterly vertical sovereign intervention of God, that the Creator and Sustainer of the world has come in our flesh and dwelt among us to save us. There’s no way that you can describe it other than to cry, “This takes your breath away.” Let me ask you this, whether it is so surprising that the manner God the Son entered this world was by a miracle, and that the manner he exited this world was by another miracle – the virgin birth the alpha of the miracles, and the ascension into heaven the omega of them? It makes perfect sense that if God himself is going to intersect our space-time history, take on our humanity, live amongst us, die amongst us as the Lamb of God, and be raised again from the dead amongst us, that the way he first would enter this world would be by a supernatural avenue. There’s nothing surprising to a Christian about that, however implausible it might seem to the skeptic, but then everything about Jesus Christ is implausible to the skeptic.

B.B. Warfield said that, “Men have always and everywhere judged that a supernatural man, doing a supernatural work, must have sprung from a supernatural source.” If there had been nothing extraordinary about the coming of God the Son into the world (except, like John the Baptist or Isaac, that his parents had been particularly old when he was born) then the whole of the rest of the life of Christ would have seemed out of sync. Think of a Boeing 707 . . . and a starting handle at the front being turned by the captain to get the engines to catch so that the plane can take off! Was Jesus of Nazareth simply another preacher like John, but greater? No, no! He walked the earth as its Lord. The winds and waves obeyed him. He could not be held in the grave but burst the bonds of death. He ascended and is seated at the right hand of God and he gives salvation through his Spirit to the people he favours. It is impossible that he should enter this world indistinguishable from any other. He had a supernatural birth, a supernatural life; he did a supernatural work and he founded a supernatural religion. His birth by means of a virgin is all a part of that.

iii] Again, the New Testament says nothing to us about the perpetual virginity of Mary, that is, of her remaining a virgin after Jesus’ birth. The New Testament church was never taught to consider perpetual virginity to be a holier state than being married and becoming a mother. That idea arose much later in the history of the medieval church at a confused period as it was losing its moorings in the Bible. At such a time the state of celibacy was being exalted to a higher state than marriage, and the Roman church began to demand that its ministers remained unmarried men throughout their entire lives. Paul warned Timothy of such false teachers, “they forbid people to marry” (I Tim. 4:3). Its teachers were even claiming that sexual desire between husband and wife entered the human race as a result of the fall of man. The doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary became sadly expressed in Rome’s traditions during the dark ages. That is the false attitude to sex we have to resist; it has nothing to do with the decision of God that the Son be virginally begotten. The virgin birth of Christ does not derive from demeaning Gnostic views of sex and the human body.

Professor John Murray is so forthright in his exposure of the false teaching surrounding the view that Mary, although married to Joseph, remained a virgin until she died. He says, “Perhaps the most blatant attempt to throw the halo of a false sanctity around this anti-biblical direction of thought is the dogma of the perpetual virginity of the virgin Mary. The whole interest of this tenet is the thought that it would be inconsistent with the holiness of the virgin to suppose that she had sexual relations with her husband Joseph after the birth of Jesus. The fact is that biblical holiness would have dictated marital relations with her husband, and to suppose that she did not have such would be a grave reflection upon her character. Our high esteem for the character of the virgin as a woman saved by grace and sanctified by the Spirit demands that we deny her perpetual virginity. Perpetual virginity would put her in the category of a wretch, and our respect for her nobility and piety will have none of it. To be a good woman she must have had these normal marital relations. And the most natural and reasonable supposition is that the brothers and sisters of our Lord were the offspring of Mary and Joseph after the birth of Jesus Christ” (John Murray, Principles of Conduct, IVP, 1957, p.66). So there is no perpetual virginity of Mary taught in the Bible, and there was no credulity about virgin births in New Testament times. It was as astonishing to them as it is to us today.

2. THERE ARE BIBLICAL GROUNDS TO BELIEVE IN THE VIRGIN BIRTH.

What is the basis of our embracing the truth of the virgin birth? I am sure that every Christian here will say with Warfield, “I have myself no doubt whatever of the fact of the supernatural birth of Jesus.” There was a time when it was one of the details of the New Testament that critics were quick to disdain, but I think their scorn has cooled down somewhat in the last 25 years. Today you don’t meet so often the claim, “You can be a real Christian and not believe in the virgin birth” as I used to hear it forty years ago. But why should anyone reject this truth? Certainly we live in days when media discussions are very common about in vitro fertilization and fertility treatment for couples married a considerable time. Somehow the virgin birth doesn’t seem as strange as it must have appeared to those religious men who trembled and capitulated their faith at any mention of the word ‘science.’

The virgin birth is clearly taught in the Bible, and every Christian instinctively believes the Bible. Modernism has done its destructive work in Europe, but every new Christian trusts the Word of God and is taught by the Father to believe and obey it. You cannot believe in the infallible Jesus without also believing the Scriptures because Christ gives us an infallible Bible; “Your word is truth,” he says to his Father. That is what he himself believed and taught. So believing in the virgin birth of Christ is finally a moral issue. It is part of your obedience and submission to the Son of God. It is a sin not to believe in the virgin birth.

Again if the Bible got the facts of the birth of Christ wrong then there is error at the very heart of the New Testament and all the authority of the Scripture collapses. Couldn’t God have said to Luke, “Write it not!” and see to it that he didn’t? The virgin birth is taught at fair length and in sufficient detail in the very opening chapter of the New Testament to demand your submission if Christ is your Lord – just as the creation is also similarly taught in the very opening chapter of the Old Testament. You would expect the devil to constantly attack two such significantly placed portions of Scripture, and that is exactly what we observe.

How do the critics get around such plain testimony to the virgin conception? There are three objections.

A) Firstly there is the ‘omission’ objection. Critics will say, “Look, I know that Matthew 1 and Luke 1 talk about the virgin birth, but you know what? Nowhere else in the New Testament do we hear about a virgin birth. Therefore Matthew and Luke must have made it up because nobody else knows about it.” You can answer that in a couple of ways.

a] There are other places in the New Testament which treat the birth of Jesus in striking radical language. Think of John chapter one and the phrase, “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” We’d never use that phrase would we? We’d never ask a mother of a baby boy concerning his age, “when was he made flesh?” but we use it of Jesus coming into the world. Or consider Paul’s words in Philippians chapter two writing of Christ being in the form of God and not considering it robbery to be equal with God. He tells us of Christ making “himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself . . .” (Phils 2:7&8). You couldn’t use such terminology of any other birth – “When was your little one made in human likeness and found in appearance as a man?” You find the same discontinuity from other births in the language about the coming of Jesus which Paul uses when he tells the Galatians, “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem . . .” (Gals. 4:4). The pre-existent one was ‘born of a woman.’ How unnecessary a phrase! What baby has not been born of a woman? Why say that unless there was something utterly distinctive of the birth? By such hints Paul shows us he believed in the unique and miraculous virgin birth. You remember that Luke was often in the company of Paul, and that Paul knew the gospel. He actually quotes from Luke’s gospel chapter ten and verse seven in his first letter to Timothy chapter five and verse eighteen in the words “The labourer deserves his wages.”

b] However, there is another consequence of the protest, “because the virgin birth is not directly and explicitly talked about anywhere else in the New Testament except in Matthew and Luke, therefore we’re not going to believe it.” You’re going to have to reject a whole lot more than the virgin birth if you insist on a record of it in Scripture more than once or twice! You are also going to reject the fact that Jesus was laid in a manger, that wise men came with their gifts; that shepherds came to visit him. All of those events are found only in Matthew 1 or Luke 2. You are going to disbelieve in the raising of Lazarus from the dead because it’s found only in one place in John’s gospel, and John 3:16 because it is only found in John 3:16, and the prayer of our Lord in John 17, and the miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, because they are singular in their places in Scripture, and so on and on. If an event occurs twice then the modernist says the one was copied from the other and he also points out errors because they are not word for word repetitions, but if the event only occurs once he dismisses it for that reason. If you take the scissors and cut out of the Bible those events and teachings which you consider don’t fit in with your views then you show the Bible has no authority at all in your life. You are the master of what you believe. You are the ultimate arbitrator of what is right and wrong for whatever reasons you have. You have become your own god. So we are saying that the infancy narratives of Jesus are found in some detail in the opening chapters of both the gospels of Matthew and Luke, and that is exactly where we would expect to hear most explicitly about the nature of the birth of the Son of God.

Men and women, these gospels record for us utterly realistic accounts of the reactions of two godly human beings to the shattering news that the young virgin concerned, betrothed to a righteous man, has discovered that she is pregnant. There’s no hint of a, “of course . . . right . . . virgin birth . . . no problem . . .” reaction. It almost breaks up this family. We meet on the pages of Matthew and Luke two very mature young people responding to the most staggering crisis they could meet. It is wonderfully reassuring for us to know that if God’s grace could keep Mary and Joseph together, then he can keep you and your spouse together. So there is the omission objection and why I reject it.

B) There is the contradiction objection. Let me deal with this very briefly; critics of the Bible will say, “But wait a second, Matthew and Luke contradict one another. You look at Matthew and he says one thing has happened, and then you look at Luke, and he says another thing has happened. They contradict one another.” No, they don’t contradict one another. They are independent accounts of one event. If I should ask you all to summarize in about 60 words what happened in church this morning I would receive 60 different accounts of what happened and yet they would all be true. There is not one statement in Matthew that contradicts one statement in Luke, or one event described by Luke that contradicts a single event in Matthew. But, at the same time, you can’t claim that Matthew was simply copying a story from Luke, or Luke was copying an incident from Matthew, because the flow of the story of Jesus’ birth and the aftermath is different.

Matthew homes in on Joseph’s reaction to hearing about the pregnancy, presumably after being told by Mary, and Joseph’s response was to go off and think about divorce. Then an angel came and addressed him solemnly; so he took Mary back. Then that evangelist has Jesus and his family as refugees down in Egypt; that is what Matthew highlights. In Luke’s story the angel comes to Mary and tells her about the child; she and Joseph are kept together, but then she ends up going off to be with Elizabeth for a number of months. Nothing in one story contradicts anything in the other story; the stories complement one another perfectly in ways you would expect two historians to achieve who’ve got different interests in what happened when our Lord was born. Matthew somehow hears of the story of Joseph. Luke perhaps sat down with Mary or with one or more of her children and found out in that way about how she responded to Gabriel’s visit. Remember what Luke says in the third verse of his gospel, “I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning.” So there is no contradiction here; there’s just a complementariness of accounts written by two good Christian historians moved by God as they were writing, advocating their readers to believe as they had come to trust in the Son of God. So there is no omission and no contradiction to justify rejecting the account of the virgin birth. No New Testament writer says anything that contradicts the testimony of Matthew and Luke. And then . . .

C) There is the misinterpretation objection. Critics have also said that the whole doctrine of the virgin birth rose from a misinterpretation of one single word in the Old Testament. “You see,” they say, “those early Christians read Isaiah chapter seven and verse fourteen, ‘A virgin shall conceive and bear a son,’ and those words led to their confusion because we know today that in fact Isaiah didn’t say: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive’ it is rather a ‘young woman’.” That is the time-worn modernist criticism of Isaiah’s prophecy. How do we respond to it? Listen carefully . . . in Hebrew Isaiah uses the word ‘Alma which means young maiden, and centuries later, about 250 years before Jesus lived, a group of Greek-speaking Jews translated the Old Testament into Greek and they decided that the Greek word which best captured the meaning of that word ‘Alma was the word for virgin. “But” the critics say, “when Christians saw this word ‘virgin’ they got the idea that they had to claim that Jesus had been born of a virgin, so they invented these stories written in Matthew and Luke. But if they had known their Hebrew they would have realized that it was just ‘young woman’ that was in Isaiah’s mind, not a virgin.” That is the familiar ‘misinterpretation theory’ of why the New Testament came to teach the virgin birth.

How do we answer it? When the word ‘Alma is used in the Old Testament it refers primarily to a young woman who has reached the age of puberty and is thus marriageable, but in the light of Israelite ethical and social standards she would be a virgin, like Rebekah or Miriam of whom the word ‘Alma is used elsewhere in the Scripture. Do you think that the young women of Israel facing stoning for adultery, knowing the ten commandments, were like our ‘ladettes,’ the boozing immoral young women of today? Do you think they were like the ‘wives and girl-friends’ of footballers – the so-called WAGS – who go from their personal trainers with the energy and limitless cash and singular interest for shopping for anything they want? It would be necessary for Isaiah to say of a ladette or a WAG that one was a virgin, but not of the young women of his day. So it is perfectly proper for Isaiah to say ‘Alma, ‘young woman,’ and for the translators 200 years before Christ to choose the translation ‘virgin’ – that is why the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – says it. Isaiah also uses the definite article, the virgin, in other words maybe referring to someone whom he and Ahaz knew well. Her pregnancy would be a sign to them in its typical fulfillment of God visiting his people and giving extraordinary life where there seemed to promise none; God can do that. But a much greater sign would be in its complete fulfillment when Mary became pregnant with the Messianic Son of the Most High whom God has promised.

This passage in Isaiah had been studied by the Jews, especially by the rabbis, for centuries before Christ and the conclusion they all had come to was that the Messiah was going to come miraculously into the world, that is, by a virgin. They believed that as the natural understanding of Isaiah’s prophecy. The word ‘virgin’ is no misinterpretation, especially since Matthew under the illumination of the Holy Spirit quoted that same word ‘virgin’ in chapter one of his gospel and applied it to the birth of Jesus. For us the Spirit-chosen word ‘virgin’ can be no mistake. So the idea that the virgin birth is an omission or a contradiction or a misinterpretation just won’t float. The biblical testimony is consistently for the virgin birth.

So the modernists believe their irrational and beguiling anti-virgin birth theories. What these wacky notions have in common is an enormous amount of data especially in German, a cascade of Greek and Hebrew, and loads of opinions. So it is simple to ignore everything that refutes your beliefs, exaggerate anything that supports it, and invent more if needs be. Having discarded the plain Bible teaching the liberal fantasists have as much material on how Mary became pregnant as a jewel thief locked into De Beers.

3. THERE ARE HISTORICAL GROUNDS TO BELIEVE IN THE VIRGIN BIRTH.

Very briefly let me say that if you look at the earliest Christianity – let’s just take the first two centuries of the early Church – and start at the end of those two centuries, the late 190s, the end of the second century. You consider how the virgin birth is believed by such notable Christians as Irenaus (in what is now France), or Justin Martyr in Rome, or Tertullian in North Africa. Then you can go both ways. You can head for us and travel down the years to the 21st century and find all along that road great marker pillars standing erect of belief in the virgin birth of Christ. I am thinking of such markers as the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, the Augsburg Confession, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the 1689 Baptist Confession and the 1823 Confession of the Calvinistic Methodists of Wales. That great Confession was finally drafted and accepted here in our own town, and the very spot is commemorated by a very plain plaque in Welsh on a wall in the main street two shops up from Woolworths! It is there on the wall of Saver’s, and next time you spot that unspectacular square stone then you remember it signifies a hugely significant group of living Christians who changed Wales for the good and all of them trusted in the virgin born Messiah. This is what they believed; listen to these words; “In the fullness of time, God’s own Son, eternally begotten, an infinite Person in the Godhead, equal with the Father, an express image of his Person, true God, took upon him human nature in the Virgin’s womb – true entire humanity, but holy and free from defilement.” That is the 1823 Confession of Faith’s statement about how the Son of God entered the world. There are, I say, a long line of such glorious pillars found in all the Confessions before our time giving one uniform testimony to the virgin conception of Jesus.

Or you can begin to work back towards Jesus Christ from those church fathers who lived at the end of the second century, back in time through the writings and sermons of Christians towards the beginning of the first century until you get into the early 100s in the sermons of Ignatius of Antioch in Syria. Keep going right back into the New Testament writings themselves and you find one united message. Let me remind you, by the way, that when Irenaus in 190 AD is talking about the virgin birth, he was a man who had studied under a Christian from Smyrna named Polycarp, and he had studied under the apostle John who knew the mother of our Lord well. So Irenaus was just one step removed from an apostolic author of the New Testament and Irenaus writes of the virgin birth.

There is no question that all the early Christians believed that Scripture taught this, and that this virgin birth is the way it was. You will find an unbroken chain of witness from the early Christians like Matthew and Luke on to the church fathers in the next century and so on and on through history until 1823 in Aberystwyth. You can see that all of the leaders of the church in every country, without any exception, believed in the virgin birth. You will not find one single Christian who questioned the virgin birth. So when 20th century anti-supernatualists like Emil Brunner and Pannenburg and the Jesus Seminar scholars and the Myth of God Incarnate group all deny the Bible’s plain assertion that the Son of God was born of a virgin they’re not only doing so in the face of the clear testimony of the New Testament but also in the face of twenty centuries of consistent universal declarations from the church. They have not dug up some archaeological discovery on which to base their ideas. They have no more material than all the generations of Christians since the time of Christ.

Are such liberals so spiritually minded, living in such closeness with God, walking in the Spirit each day, that they are safe guides and leaders for the future prosperity of the church? Have pulpits trumpeted out their ideas so that many hearers have turned from their sins and trusted in Christ? That, I am sorry to say, has not been my experience of modernists. Do congregations which have embraced these errors know God’s blessing on them in seeing conversions, and missionaries going out into all the world with news of the Saviour who has come from heaven for our redemption? No they do not; churches influenced by such ideas have closed and are closing down all over Europe.

Now, of course the fact that the Christians of the second century all believed in the virgin birth doesn’t mean it’s true; but it does mean that they were convinced this was the teaching of the Bible. So you can be confident that you are not misreading the Bible, I say to you that the entire first generation of Christians, chronologically closest to the event, believed in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, as others have done in the great confessions of faith throughout history. Christ has built his church through the ages. So there is the historical reason for believing in the virgin conception.

Now we have considered the biblical and the historical reasons for believing in the virgin birth, but there are also doctrinal reasons for why there had to be virginal conception but that must wait until next time.

10th June 2007 GEOFF THOMAS